Introduction to the 2 pillars of improving what you say

by Daniel Batten on February 28, 2010

I just spent some time with a client who is building an incredible online outsourcing solution that solves the main issues of trust, communication and payment. Think of it like TradeMe for buyers of any contractable, part-time or freelance service – anywhere in the world.

Today, my client said “for the first time I can understand the importance of story. I’d always been told that ‘stories sell’ – but I never knew how to do it and always doubted how story fitted into the world of business – the world of facts and stats and balance sheets.”

Think of a story like this – its a glass. Imagine if you go to someone’s house and they say “would you like a glass … or would you like ‘some water’?” You would be baffled, as you want some water inside a glass. Water by itself will make you drenched. The glass by itself will leave you frustrated.

The water is the information, with all its facts and stats.

The glass is the water.

Story is the container for your information.

Have you ever felt drenched by someone who gave only information, but it wasn’t put in a story container?

Have you ever felt frustrated by someone who told a good story but had no substance?

The solution is to give them the glass (the story) and then give them the water (the information).

Now, do you notice that this article follows this principle. It told a short story, then gave some related information. The story provided the real life context where the information became useful.

Did you also notice the use of two metaphors? The metaphor to describe his company, and the metaphor to describe how a story works. If story is the body, metaphor are the arms and limbs that support it.

It is said that a picture is worth one thousand words.

However a metaphor is worth one thousand pictures. A metaphor links the unknown to the known more efficiently than any other device known to human-kind, and a story allows information to be absorbed, remembered and acted upon more powerfully than any other device known to human-kind.

PS: Finally, using story and metaphor to talk about story and metaphor is doing something else very important in communication: it’s illustrating the difference between telling and showing. Telling is like a stand-up comic saying “I’m a very funny guy”. Showing means telling a joke. Which would you rather listen to? That’s how important “showing” is when you are selling any message.

Get in the habit of showing not telling, using metaphor, and start story telling – and you instantly add three cylinders to your communication engine.

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